The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team is proud, unapologetic, and advocating for social justice
Immediately after the U.S. Women’s National Team won the World Cup, the stadium in Lyon erupted with cheers, which quickly turned into chants demanding “Equal pay!” The U.S. women’s 2-0 victory over the Netherlands marks the team’s fourth World Cup victory – the record for the most FIFA Women’s World Cup wins.
Despite generating more revenue than the men’s team over the past three years, the women on the team continue to be paid less than their male counterparts. According to the Wall Street Journal, between 2016 and 2018, the U.S. women’s soccer games generated $50.8 million in revenue, compared to $49.9 million for men’s games.
The recent victory of the women’s team, however, has not only reignited demands for equal pay. It has also cast a spotlight on a team that we, as Americans, can rally behind – a team that demands better, not just for women, but for people of all marginalized identities.
During the USWNT’s World Cup celebration in New York, co-captain Megan Rapinoe, who has become a queer American sports icon, delivered an inspiring speech calling for more empathy. “This is my charge to everyone. We have to be better," she said. "We have to love more, hate less. We’ve got to listen more and talk less. We’ve got to know that this is everybody’s responsibility. Every single person here. Every single person who is not here… It’s our responsibility to make this world a better place.”
Their victory comes at a time in which many Americans may find it difficult to be proud to be American. A time in which the rights of women (particularly women of color), immigrants, people who identify as LGBTQ, and individuals of other marginalized communities are increasingly under attack.
In light of this, Rapinoe and her teammates have been vocal advocates of equality. They have used their platforms to advocate for equal pay, LGBTQ rights, and racial justice. Rapinoe was among the first American athletes to take a knee in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick. “I believe it is my responsibility, just as it is yours, to ensure that freedom is afforded to everyone in this country,” she wrote in The Players’ Tribune in 2016. “I have chosen to kneel because I simply cannot stand for the kind of oppression this country is allowing against its own people. I have chosen to kneel because, in the words of Emma Lazarus, ‘Until we are all free, we are none of us free.’”
It’s not the only time members of the U.S. Women’s Team have used their platform to elevate voices being silenced. In March, on International Women’s Day, the U.S. players took an unprecedented step to address the gender pay gap. 28 members of the national team, including Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe, filed a federal gender-discrimination lawsuit against the United States Soccer Federation. The lawsuit accused U.S. Soccer of paying “only lip service to gender equality.” The team has also spoken out against discriminatory anti-trans policies in sports, and have fearlessly advocated for their own intersectional identities. In the June issue of Time Magazine, Alex Morgan explains, “We have to do more in general–we have to be the athlete, we have to be the role model, we have to lead the way for the next generation.” She continues, “Are male athletes doing that? Are they thinking about anyone other than themselves? I don’t know. We do have more than one job within this role, and are getting paid much less.”
The women’s fight for equal pay is an issue not just limited to sports, but is reflective of a larger inequity across the U.S. In America, women experience a wage gap in nearly every occupation. On average, women are paid $0.79 for every dollar paid to men in 2019, and the gap is even larger for minorities and women of color. While the U.S. Soccer Federation is under mounting pressure to address the glaring inequities, business and workplaces throughout the country must also respond to the increasing demand to pay women their fair share.
Whether on or off the pitch, women face barriers that extend far beyond their paycheck. Often, women need to work harder to earn recognition in the workplace. This affects their access to advancement; according to a McKinsey report, women are underrepresented at every level of the corporate pipeline – particularly the senior level.
Public pressure is pushing the U.S. Soccer Federation to be held accountable for the pay gap between the men’s and women’s teams. On Tuesday, a Senate bill introduced by Senator Joe Manchin would withhold federal funds relating to hosting the men’s 2026 World Cup until the U.S. Women’s Team receives equitable pay – demonstrating what public support can do, and what happens when we demand more. Just as the U.S. Soccer Federation must respond to gender discrepancies in salary, employers also need to evaluate individuals based on the work and value brought to the organization – rather than their gender.
On the heels of their victory, the women’s soccer team has been celebrating their win unapologetically. They sipped champagne and danced on floats at their celebration in New York, while also using the occasion to decry the unequitable pay gap between the men’s and women’s teams. While some critics have called them “arrogant,” this reaction may speak less about the team’s behavior, and more about the ways in which women have been socialized not to take up space. The U.S. Women’s National Team refuses to downplay their greatness, and refuses to apologize for their achievements – demonstrating behavior that we see often in men, but that is rarely expressed or celebrated in women. In contrast, these female players are proud and confident, and are taking up the space they know they deserve. Now, it’s time to pay them what they deserve.
Ashley Miller is a Marketing Consultant for the Diversity Dashboard
The Diversity Dashboard is a project management software tool that provides diversity professionals with the ability to track their activity, measure their results, and report the ROI of their diversity programs. To find out more, get in touch.